Mavericks turn No. 17 into a trio of pickups

DALLAS — The Dallas Mavericks used the draft to asset-manage their way to $1.4 million in cap savings, to get three rookies who coach Rick Carlisle says can all make the team due to their ‘high motors and high character’ and who come to Dallas with credentials that suggest they all do at least one thing very well. The club is hours away from big decisions involving a trade of Lamar Odom and the free-agency pursuit of Deron Williams, but in the wake of Thursday’s NBA Draft, let’s look at the highlights and the health of Jared Cunningham, Bernard James and Jae Crowder.

The Dallas Mavericks attempted to jump higher than No. 17 but when that failed, turned No. 17 (Tyler Zeller as the pick going to Cleveland along with Kelenna Azubuike) into a trio of pickups:

Coming to town are 24th overall pick Jared Cunningham, the 33rd overall pick Bernard James and 34th overall pick Jae Crowder. … all part of a swap that was pre-determined as an option before the draft.

Cunningham (6-foot-4, 194 lbs) was “in the mix” at 17, according to GM Donnie Nelson. He finished his three-year career at Oregon State ranked 13th in career scoring (1,271 points), second in steals (219) and third in free throws made (427). He was named First Team All-Pac 12 as a junior when he averaged 17.9 points, 3.8 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 2.5 steals per game.

He missed just one game in his three years at Oregon State and it was due to a suspension for missing curfew, not an injury. He did suffer a hamstring injury at the combine but was able to complete his team workouts. He appears to be a solid, healthy body.

We’ll have more from that Scouting Combine from a DB.commer who is a college coach who was in the gym for the impressive workouts of Cunningham, who coach Rick Carlisle carefully compared to Russell Westbrook, a guy athletic enough to play explosively at the 2-guard but who Dallas sees as a possible future PG.

James (6-10, 240) is a former Staff Sergeant who served six years in the Air Force, including tours to Iraq, Afghanistan and Qatar. In his senior season at Florida State, James averaged 10.8 points, 8.1 rebounds and 2.3 blocks and was named to the Atlantic Coast Conference All-Defensive team. James also won the Most Courageous Award by the United States Basketball Writers of America.

James is exactly what you’d expect from a guy who spent time on multiple tours in Iraq and Qatar. He’s tough. According to his coaches he never missed a game or practice at Florida State despite tearing a tendon in his thumb during his senior season. A nasty gash above his left eye required stitches but he played on and a minor ankle injury slowed him down, but didn’t stop him. We don’t see anything that should be a cause for concern here.

“He’s a soldier,’ literally,” Donnie said.

“We’re proud to have him,” Carlisle said, also alluding to James’ military service.

Crowder (6-6, 235) is a four-year player who finished his career at Marquette after transferring from Howard College where he was NJCAA Player of the Year. In his senior year at Marquette , he was named Big East Player of the Year when he averaged 17.5 points, 8.4 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 2.5 steals per game.

Donnie says he has an “Artest-type body and is a locker-room leader, a big-time integrity.”

Crowder spent two years at Marquette after two years of junior college. Like James, he played in every game while at Marquette. Continuing with the draft day theme, Crowder has no significant injuries to report.

Overall, the Mavs say they put emphasis on the draft for what it is and not in anticipation of free agency. But …

“We were able to get off a little bit of money, yes,” Donnie said. “Allows us to be a little more flexible for free agency come Saturday night.”